Day Thirty-one – Thirty-eight – “Calvary Chapel Austria Conference”, Millstatt, Austria
I praise God that the Lord worked it out for us to stay an extra week. I wasn’t too sure about it before we left, I just didn’t feel good about being gone one more Sunday. I had pretty much turned down the invitation to speak at this conference, until Jenny suggested I pray about it, “The Lord may want you to speak at it”, she said.
I am so thankful to the eldership who supported the decision to stay and each of you who attend South Hill Calvary Chapel as well. I am especially thankful to the Lord for the opportunity, it was a tremendous blessing for a number of reasons, which I will try and share in this last post.
We left Ireland very early in the morning for about a two and a half hour drive to Shannon from our hotel. We flew to Heathrow Airport in London. I have never been in such a big airport, it was massive. As you can see, it looks more like a shopping mall on the inside rather than an airport. I just learned that there are over 7,000,000 people in London. No wonder the airport is so big!
The conference didn’t start until Sunday with dinner and a devotional that evening. We arrived at the conference center, which they call ‘the castle’ at around 8:30 in the evening. It was a very long day and Robin and Allison, the couple who runs the conference center were so welcoming and gracious. They blessed us by letting us stay there a few days before the actual conference started. It would also give me some time to prepare my messages.
Two exciting things happened on Friday. First, we were told that Italy was just a 45 minute drive from the castle. We couldn’t stand the thought of not going to Italy, being so close and all, so we headed out. Unfortunately it was raining incredibly hard and figured it would be a very short and wet day.
We headed to Tarvisio, Italy only to find out that it was raining just as hard there as in Austria. Jenny suggested we ddrive further into Italy until the sun was shining. I doubted if we should but am so glad I listened to my wife. It was only another hour away and the drive through the Italian Alps was remarkable. Such beauty leaves no doubt that there is a God!
Sure enough, Jenny was right. When we arrived in Udine (pronounced ‘oo-din-ay’) the sun was shining and it was hot. I was so glad we went because the town was much more of what you would think of when you think of Italy. Tarvisio was a hybrid of an Austrian town and an Italian town, probably a little more Austrian than Italian.
We had a great day hanging out and just talking about the trip thus far and the things the Lord was showing us. We ended up eating back in Tavisio because all the restaurants close in the afternoon in Udine. That is pretty common in Europe. They take a break for a rest and then thinks kick in back in the afternoon.
I really enjoyed Italy and was surprised at how similar Italian and Spanish is. My dad (who was fluent in Spanish) had told me that he was able to get along well with Spanish when he went to Italy because the two languages were so similar. I found that it to be true and would speak a little Spanish and they would pick right up on what I was saying. It was very cool.
The second thing that was so exciting on Friday was that I was able to attend one of Rene’s concert. Rene is the worship leader at ‘The Chapel’ in Austria. He is married to Sabrina, I have talked about him in previous posts. He told me when we were in Austria that his band ‘Inem’ (short for ‘in Him’) was going to be headlining in Spittal (about 20 minutes from the castle). I was really excited because I had been wanting to hear his band. They were really good! The band is made up of three other Christian brothers (Manuel, Thomas and Christian), two of which attend The Chapel. You can see part of their opening song HERE.
Unfortunately, since they were the headlining band, they didn’t start playing until 12:00 midnight. Jenny stayed back at The Castle and I ended up getting back to the room around 1:30 AM. I had a great opportunity to talk with Rene and Sabrina about their ministry and where the Lord was wanting to use them. They really desire to be a light in a very dark music industry. This was evident in the first two bands who opened up for Inem. Please pray for them as they continue to seek the Lord’s direction in their music. Rene is a very gifted musician and worship leader. He really has a heart to teach God’s word, preach the gospel to the lost and lead worship. He also has a a real sweet ministry at a local prison in Salzburg.
One of the things that has remained consistent in all of our time here, is a gratefulness of the people for our support. The band just kept thanking me for coming, over and over again. I was blessed to have been able to encourage them.
The conference began on Sunday with dinner. SInce this was the second time we had been there in the last month (the Calvary Chapel Croatia Conference was held at the Castle as well) it gave us the opportunity to begin to really get to know the people at the castle and better understand their ministry. It is really very cool how they are serving the body of Christ here as well as disciple the people who are serving. It was nice being able to reflect on what Pastor Jason was involved with before he came to serve at SHCC. Approximately nine years ago, he had attended a semester of bible college in Vajta Hungary, and then served four months at the castle, in summer service and an intern program. I would really love to see some of our youth take advantage of this great opportunity for service and discipleship.
By the time Saturday rolled around, I was really feeling ready to come home. But when people started arriving, especially Pastor Ivan and Michelle and their three little girls, I started feeling bad that I would be able to stay for the whole week. As it turned out, in addition to the devotional, Robin asked me to teach five sessions.
The other teachers were Pastor Bill Gallatin from Finger Lakes, New York, and Peter Will from Hanover, Germany. What a tremendous blessing it was minister alongside these faithful ministers of the Gospel. Jenny and I had actually sat under a number of Bill’s teachings back in 2006 as he led our first ‘pastor familiarization trip’ to Israel. He is a very good teacher.
I told the group the first night that I was really looking forward to being the ‘young kid’ on the block. Pastor Bill is 75 years old and Pastor Peter is 68. I can’t tell you how encouraging it was to see these two brothers so zealously serving Jesus, purposing in their hearts to finish strong. Both of them have turned their churches over to younger pastors and are spending all of their time speaking to various churches and at conferences all over the world, as well as encouraging the body of Christ at large. I know that they were a tremendous encouragement to me.
Peter and I really hit it off from the very first. He really encouraged me from the start by saying how important it was to come along side of these younger pastors who have left their homes and families to serve the Lord in the mission field.
I was very nervous at first. It was the first time I was teaching with two other ‘seasoned’ pastors who were spending all of their time teaching in various venues. I prayed that I could just be myself and not compare myself with them but to just be me. God was so faithful to answer my prayer and by the end of the week, I felt like fit right in. We each had a different interpreter. Pastor Bill used the assistant pastor of Calvary Chapel Spittal where Robin is the Pastor. He translates every Sunday for Robin. He is one of the kindest men I have ever met. He loves Jesus and we hit it off because he also loves rooibos tea. In fact, he knows quite a bit about the tea and on Wednesday, we spent about an hour and a half just having a cup of the vanilla rooibos tea that Gabby from Leipzig had given me, and talking about Jesus. What a great combination!
I first got to know Manfred at a Men’s Breakfast that CC Spittal had on Saturday morning. He translated for me, as Robin had asked if I would mind doing a short devotional at the breakfast. What a sweet brother Manfred is. My translator was Katrin, from The Chapel in Salzburg. You may remember that she translated for me when Brad and I were here in the Spring, and then when I taught at their Sunday service in June. She is very passionate when she translates and the more she translated for me, the better it seemed to get. I am coming home with whole new appreciation of the difficulty of translating. It is a very special ministry and I thank God for them. Pastor Peter taught in German and Pastor Ivan translated into English. He did and excellent job! You can check out a bit of Peter’s sermon HERE.
One of the sweet surprises on Monday was a visit by Pastor Damir…and Ben and Emily. Pastor Bill had been visiting Damir the previous week and Damir, Ben and Emily came with Damir when he drove Bill to the castle. What a great joy it was to see them. We spent some time in the morning with them, just after arriving, and then had lunch with them that day. They left to head back to Croatia just shortly after lunch.
Robin and Allison invited us out to dessert and coffee on Wednesday afternoon. It was a very sweet time of getting a further inside look at the life of missionaries. They have several who are serving at the church full time. In particular, one family from England who have a rather interesting story as to how they all got there. Maxine, who is the cook, has been there for about five years. Not too long after Maxine came, her daughter Becky came. Becky has been there serving for four years now. Before you knew it, the Lord brought Maxine’s son Alex, his wife Laura and their three children to serve at the castle. I cannot tell you how delightful these people are. In the short time we were here, they became very dear to us.
One of the highlights of final stop was my meeting with Alex. Robin had given me a brief overview of Alex’s testimony on Saturday on our way to the Men’s Breakfast. He encouraged me to try to hear it from Alex himself. When I got back to the castle I told Alex I would like to sit down with him if he had some time, to hear his testimony. He said he would love to.
Finally, after the last session on Wednesday night, we were able to sit down and talk. It was around 10:00 when we did and I was so grateful for the opportunity. Not only was his testimony awesome (as most testimonies are) but his heart for the young people he disciples as well as his desire to serve the Lord was so encouraging. Towards the end of our time together, his wife Laura joined us and we talked for another thirty or forty-five minutes. What a blessing it was to hear of their love and call to serve Jesus in the mission field. They have such sweet hearts and I am going to pray for them and see how the Lord might have us support them. I am not sure what that means at this point, but know that the Lord will direct us. I believe I was able to be and encouragement to Alex and really hope the Lord opens up more opportunities to encourage both of them. They are very good friends with Pastor Kurt and Tiffany Ibbotson, which made it all the more special.
I could have talked with them even more, but knew that I had to get back to the room and pack. We had a four hour drive to Munich to catch a plane home and 3:45 AM would come around very early.
What an amazing five weeks it has been! The Lord answered our (and your) prayers in so many ways. I am blown away that He gave us the opportunity to come and so grateful for each of your support and encouragement. The trip was virtually flawless in every respect, from the travel arrangements, to the various meetings with people, to the teachings, not to mention some great time with Jenny. The Lord kept us extremely healthy and by the mid part of our trip, the allergy issues were well under control.
The Lord is really moving among the people in Europe and giving us an opportunity to be a part of it. On Tuesday night, I taught on ‘Understanding Temptation’ from the first chapter of James. I thought the study went very well, and at the end, Pastor Ivan and team came up for an extended period of worship. I felt moved to go back up to the pulpit and exhort the people to seek out someone to pray with, if there was any who were dealing with sin and temptation. Shortly after going back to worship, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Manfred who had a women with her who wanted me to pray with her. Then pretty soon there was another, and another and yet another. Peter told me afterwards that people were weeping out in the hall and he was ministering to them. Later on, Pastor Ivan told me that this was extremely unusual for people from Austria and that he had never seen it before, they are generally just too proud to come forward like that. The Holy Spirit was really moving on people’s hearts. I was a very ‘New Testament’ moment. I long for more of those types of experiences in our own church and wherever the Lord has me teaching.
It is going to be very difficult to come home to business as usual after having spent five weeks in Europe with these faithful missionaries and their families. The difficult part won’t be the ministry at SHCC, for I am already looking forward to getting back involved with our church family…we really missed you all and were sad to realize the special events we had missed (missions dinner, church picnic, 4th of July and baptism). The difficult part will be returning to the style of living we are accustom to in United States. This is what I am most fearful of. The amount of money that these missionaries live on is hard to believe. They never complain, or if they do you would never know it. We have so much in the US and I thank God for that. However, I come home realizing how easy it is to spend what we have on ourselves rather than give more away. Jenny and I are praying as to what changes the Lord might have us make in this area of sacrificial living, in order that we might be able to be more generous. I want to be open to ‘anything’ the Lord tells us to do.
So where do we go from here, now that we have established these relationships with so many? Only the Lord knows. I know that we have a great group of missionaries who are so very grateful for our support and that we must continue to support them, both physically through visits, financially through giving and of course prayerfully. I know we are all committed to doing so. Exactly what that will look like, only time will tell. Robin told me on the last day I was there, that the people were very encouraged by the week and the things I had to share. He invited me to come back next year, if it could possibly work out with my schedule. I thanked him, and told him I would pray and discuss the possibility with the elders.
In the meantime, I pray that the Lord will continue to direct our steps as a church body in fulfilling the Great Commission at home and abroad, in our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. I pray that we would all learn to hear more clearly from Him and be even more sensitive to the moving and leading of the Holy Spirit. I pray that we would do this every day, so that we might be used all the more effectively for His glory. Until then…see many of you on Sunday!
Here are some additional photos…